Florida Keys

Key West military jury acquits Coast Guardsman of sexually assaulting shipmate

comAn all-male jury of five U.S. Coast Guardsmen on Friday acquitted Petty Officer 3rd Class Edwin R. Angulo of two counts of sexual assault in Key West.

Deliberations in the court martial, which started Tuesday, at Coast Guard Sector Key West lasted about three hours. The jury composed of men who appeared to be their early to mid-30s,

Angulo, 26, had faced a maximum of 60 years in prison if convicted of violating Article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. He was accused of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old Coast Guard seaman (she’s now 21) at his off-base apartment on two separate occasions in November and December 2013.

A Coast Guard training room, complete with various Coast Guard action photos, doubled as the courtroom for the court martial, a military version of a criminal trial.

Following several procedural matters, the U.S. government, represented by Coast Guard Lt. Jeremy Weiss and Lt. Bianca Barcelo, and the defense, represented by Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nathaniel Gross and Lt. Tracy Waller, laid out their cases Thursday.

“This is a case about mutual, consensual sex, two occasions of mutual sex that [the accuser] later regretted,” Gross said in an opening statement.

The government argued confusion and that the accuser did not remember what happened on both occasions, thus a lack of consent.

“He reasonably should have known that the victim was intoxicated and incapable of consenting,” Barcelo said.

Variations of the story from all the witnesses and both counsels was that, in the first incident, the accuser told Angulo to call her a cab after they danced together at the Garden of Eden bar on Duval Street. She said after blacking out, she woke up with Angulo having sex with her.

She testified that a month later, she went to Angulo's apartment with her roommate and others before falling asleep and waking up to Angulo having sex with her again.

The accuser, now stationed at Coast Guard Station Islamorada, was contradictory in her testimony when cross-examined by the defense.

She told the court, for example, that she has had alcohol only about three times since joining the Coast Guard in July 2013. However, the accuser’s roommate said they drank almost every weekend.

The defense also read the accuser a series of text messages she sent to her roommate in which she indicated she was drunk. Several of her answers also differed from what she said during an Article 32 investigatory hearing Nov. 14. For example, at that hearing, she said she spoke to Angulo at Higgs Beach after the December 2013 incident because it was a populated area. But, but in court, said she spoke with him there because it was a private area.

The crux of Thursday’s proceedings was whether the accuser was drunk enough to consent to sex on both occasions. The defense called in a court-recognized expert witness, Lt. Col. Scott Moran, an Army psychiatrist, to testify.

On both occasions, the accuser allegedly drank at least two rum and Cokes and one shot of fireball whiskey.

“It would be unlikely that someone who had four to six drinks over a four-hour period would be highly intoxicated,” Moran said.

The accuser’s roommate also contributed to the consent debate. “She didn't remember asking for it but she didn’t say no,” the roommate said of one of the incidents.

The defense twice motioned to dismiss the case. Coast Guard Capt. Christine Cutter, the judge, denied both motions. Gross said there was not a “scintilla of evidence” that on either occasion Angulo should have known that the accuser was incapacitated.

Angulo did not testify during the court martial. Both he and the accuser were stationed on the Key West-based cutter Thetis at the time she alleged he assaulted her.